February 1855: Amusement for the Working Classes – Proposed Polytechnic Institution

An article on page two of the Scottish Guardian (Scottish Guardian (Glasgow) on The British Newspaper Archive), on

Tuesday the 13th of February, 1855, reads:




The want of the means of innocent and improving recreation for the working classes of Glasgow has long been felt by all

interested in their moral and intellectual elevation. That there is no lack of aptitude for such amusements when they are

provided for this portion of the community, has been shown by the avidity with which they have availed themselves of the

opening of the Botanic Gardens and the Andersonian Museum, during the annual Fair, and the New-year’s holidays; whilst

other experiments of a similar nature have been followed by equally successful results. But there is still the felt want of a

great central place of amusement and resort for all seasons of the year. This desideratum has been forcibly pressed upon the

attention of those gentlemen who have been recently called upon to exercise their official influence in suppressing popular

amusements of a decidedly pernicious description. They justly feel that in preventing, as far as in them lies, the evils originating

in this fruitful source, they are discharging themselves of but half their responsibility to the public; and that it now devolves

upon them to take the initiative in an attempt to substitute entertainments of a wholesome and improving tendency, in room of

those which they have considered it their duty to abolish. In common with many of their fellow-citizens who have had their

attention directed to this matter, they are of opinion that the time has come when a strenuous effort should be made to establish

in this city a permanent institution, in which a succession of useful and interesting objects and processes might be exhibited, and

a series of amusements superadded, which, if not absolutely instructive, should at least be always consistent with good taste and

right feeling.


The Polytechnic Institution of London presents a model of the plan which has been thought suitable for Glasgow. Its collection of

machines in motion is a source of inexhaustible interest to visitors, as illustrating the arts and manufactures of the country. Every

new invention or improvement is shown amongst its apparatus. New discoveries in science, or new applications of scientific

principles, are exhibited on an imposing scale, and explained in a manner intelligible to a popular audience. In its subordinate

departments there is, at the same time, much that is pleasing to the eye and the ear, and attractive to visitors of every age and



So far as this project has been considered and made known, it meets with the most encouraging favour. Several public-spirited

citizens have proffered liberal aid in carrying it into effect. The want of suitable premises appeared to be the most formidable

difficulty to be encountered. But a property has been placed at the disposal of the projectors, on singularly advantageous terms,

situated in the very centre of the city, and capable, with a slight alteration, of being rendered in every respect as suitable for a

Polytechnic Institution as if it had been built expressly for the purpose.


The providing of such an institution with standard machinery and apparatus, would involve large expenditure at the outset; but

not more than may be reasonably expected from the wealthy and influential citizens, on a due consideration of the many advantages

to be derived from such a collection by the masses of the working population, and especially of the improvement which it would

undoubtedly produce in the tastes and habits of that class which has been hitherto abandoned to the lowest and most depraving

amusements. Not the least important benefit of the institution would be its standing testimony to the interest felt by the wealthy

classes in the moral and intellectual elevation of the people.


The great object of the promoters of the plan would be to place it at once upon an efficient basis, so as to secure its being

self-supporting. It is ascertained that an arrangement could be made with one or other of the London institutions of this nature for

the use of novel and attractive objects of temporary interest. For special occasions, as during the holidays, the more curious and

attractive manual processes conducted in the manufactures of the city and neighbourhood, could be introduced at little additional cost.

Care would be taken to obtain models of new machines and other mechanical improvements and discoveries for exhibition. And

whilst the whole would be under the direction of a Committee of the subscribers and citizens, in whom the public could place

confidence, the actual superintendence would be committed to a person qualified by his intelligence, experience, and enterprise, to

keep up the interest of the exhibition by a constant succession of fresh objects and amusements.


The projectors are in the way of submitting this outline of the plan to the judgement of their fellow-citizens, without venturing to

suggest any specific proposal at present for obtaining and investing the requisite funds. Should the proposal meet with general

approbation, an early opportunity will be given to those willing to cooperate in carrying it into effect, of consulting on the best

means for attaining this purpose.”



The British Newspaper Archive.



George Fairfull-Smith, July 2023.